May 17

You learn something new every day

Posted: 17 May 2017

vcollierThis week Victoria Collier, Project Manager with our standards, learning, qualifications and apprenticeships team, talks about the importance of learning at work and reflects on the subtle ways we can all learn something new every day.

You’re probably expecting a ‘Learning at Work Week’ blog from Skills for Care to be all about apprenticeships and vocational qualifications, and don’t worry, we’ll get to them.  After all, the benefits that apprenticeships and qualifications bring for individuals and for organisations can be immense.  But I want to start off thinking about a different approach to ‘learning at work’; one we can all take regardless of whether we have the opportunity to complete a formal programme of learning or not.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘you learn something new every day’.  I agree with that, but think there’s much more to it.  We need to be open to learning, recognise when we’ve learnt something, reflect on it, share it, and put that learning into practice before it disappears. 

In the adult social care sector, we’re definitely open to learning in the workplace because we value it so much and understand that it helps to deliver safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led support.

It’s also quite easy to recognise when we’ve learnt something informally – the ‘oh, I didn’t realise that before’ or the ‘that’s a great approach’ moments when we’re listening to someone talk, reading an article, or working alongside a colleague.  And of course the ‘that didn’t go how I expected’ moments – usually the times when we learn most about ourselves and our practice.  But do we always have the opportunity (and the time) to reflect on these lessons and consider how we could share and implement what’s been learnt? 

Supervision and appraisals are an ideal time, but perhaps aren’t always frequent enough to capture everything. Some alternatives might be:

  • a mentor or buddy system that encourages workers to share and reflect on their work
  • an ideas board where workers can capture new information and approaches to discuss as a team at a later date
  • sending a quick email co-workers to share those little nuggets of information that we pick up with a suggestion of how to implement it
  • an ‘innovation session’ where colleagues come together to be creative.

Remember, however you plan to capture and share what’s been learnt, come away with an action plan.

Now, I did say I’d come back to qualifications and apprenticeships – and I wouldn’t want to disappoint you. Qualifications and apprenticeships bring benefits to the learner, to the organisation, and for the individuals accessing care and support services.  They enable workers to develop knowledge and skills, put them into practice, and have their competence assessed in the workplace delivering care that is safe and puts the individual at the centre of their support. 

Qualifications and apprenticeships don’t just lead to competent workers.  They teach learners about taking responsibility for their own development and the development of others. Like the current Diplomas, the revised qualifications (due for launch in January 2018) all include mandatory units on personal development, and the Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management in Adult Care will contain content on establishing a culture of continual learning and a culture that supports innovation and growth (the new Level 4 Certificate in Leadership and Management in Adult Care also covers these topics). 

The reforms to both qualification and apprenticeship systems and regulations have given the sector the opportunity to reflect on and learn from the current systems.  The new apprenticeship standards present great opportunities for employers and learning providers, but with these opportunities come challenges.  Skills for Care will continue to support the sector to grasp these opportunities and overcome (and learn from) the challenges.

Structured programmes of learning are an integral part of workforce development, but let’s encourage cultures that promote learning outside these programmes too.

So, your challenge for this Learning at Work Week:  don’t just learn something new every day - learn it, reflect on it and don’t keep it to yourself.  Share what you’ve learnt with your colleagues, with the people you support, with your friends and loved ones.  Use the small nuggets of information you’ve come across as well as the significant things you’ve learnt to improve your practice and to improve the lives of others.

Find out more about learning and development in adult social care, including funding for qualifications and finding high quality training. If you’re a learning provider, we also have lots of information to help #learningatworkweek @skillsforcare